May 2021’s Cheese of the Month is Baron Bigod, which hails from Suffolk based Fen Farm Dairy. The Crickmore family have been farming the land there for three generations. Their Montbeliarde herd graze the beautiful marshlands of the Waveney River Valley. The delicious raw milk is then transformed into the finest artisan cheese and raw cultured butter.
Baron Bigod is unique to Fen Farm. Its flavours, aromas and characteristics are influenced by the cows’ milk and the rich variety of grasses and herbs that grow on the Stow Fen. This ‘brie’ style cheese is a creamy, white bloomy-rind cheese, handmade on the farm by Jonny and the team. It has a smooth, silky texture and a golden curd, with warm, long-lasting earth, farmyard and mushroom flavours. It is the only traditional raw milk Brie-de-Meaux style cheese produced in the UK; and is one of only a handful of its type in the world to be made by the farmer on the farm – and which, therefore, may genuinely be called a true farmhouse Brie. Jonny does admit that they use a traditional recipe passed on to them by a French cheese maker, but he believes that what they have made is something very special.
“Baron Bigod is hand made in small batches, very early in the morning, so the raw milk is still warm from the cow, at the perfect temperature for cheesemaking. The mould cultures are added to the warm morning’s milk and it is gently gravity-fed into small vats just a few metres from the milking parlour, where the rennet is added. The curds are carefully hand-ladled into large moulds, using traditional pelle-a-brie ladles and the young cheeses are hand-salted and then aged for up to 8 weeks in a cave-like environment.
“We treat the milk with the utmost care and respect, keeping its delicate cells and fat molecules intact. This is what gives our cheese its smooth, delicate, silky texture and complex, long-lasting flavours which bounce around the mouth,”Jonny Crickmore, Fen Farm Dairy
2020 threw up multiple challenges for artisan cheese producers, with the collapse of the restaurant trade. At the start of the pandemic, Fen Farm had orders racked up for Easter, before a wave of cancellations nearly spelt disaster. Throughout last year they have worked hard to find new solutions for selling their cheese, and have had constantly to rethink different ways to reach their market. They are very grateful for the enthusiastic support from local customers wanting to buy locally, and from retailers and individuals further afield.
Jonny summed up how they feel now:
“Happy and relieved to get some normality back, but again it is incredibly hard to predict what the next few months is going to bring. Although we are feeling positive that it will be a busy summer. We will concentrate on making great products. As long as the cheese tastes great, people will buy it and along the way we will build a reputation of world class cheese makers. “
Baron Bigod is available online and in-store from Cuculo Cheese & Wine, 69 High Street, Heathfield, East Sussex TN21 8HU.